While most eyes were on the presidential race, Upfront watched as the Bend City Council quietly shifted in favor of the builders and developers lobby which again poured money into several races and came away the big winner with three of its four candidates winning seats.
However, the election was quickly overshadowed by news that longtime city councilor and two-time former mayor Bill Friedman was hospitalized in critical condition following complications from back surgery.
On Sunday, news broke that Friedman, 72, had died.
So long, BillDetails about the exact circumstances around Friedman's death were slow to emerge, but the city announced on Monday that it will hold a memorial service 1 p.m. Saturday at Farewell Bend Park, which in true city council fashion will include a "citizen comments" open mic session per Bill's wishes.
Not everyone agreed with Friedman's middle of the road politics. He frustrated progressives with his support for pro-growth projects like the Bill Healy (Southern Crossing) Bridge and was slow to come around to public transit. But he also needled developers who came after him with a vengeance and deep pockets during the 2006 election. Friedman rallied and prevailed defeating one of the most well funded candidates in council history. It was a testament to Bill's staying power.
Love him or hate, Bill was the one constant - a quick-witted politician who had endured through four city managers because of his ability to build consensus and work with his fellow councilors on the left and the right. With three new councilors taking seats and a fourth to be appointed, Bill's death opens up a fifth seat on the city council - an unprecedented turnover. It's a little ironic that when his experience and steady hand will be needed most, he won't be here to offer it.
So long Bill, you will be missed.
Magic BusSpeaking of city politics, Upfront was disappointed but certainly not surprised to see Bend Area Transit levy go down last week. Depending on how you count, the measure missed by about a 1,000 votes out of a total 36,000 plus that were cast. That's closer than last time around, but still not enough to ensure that the local bus system will survive. The city has been cutting jobs at city hall faster than you can say SDC deferral and the city's transit system is expected to be on the chopping block soon. It's not clear just how much of the bus system, which relies on a combination of the city's general fund and state and federal grants to pay its operating expenses, will remain once the city council begins cutting back service. If the city cuts too deep it will endanger its public matching grants. But it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
The city only recently added several new buses to its route and is in the process of completing a new bus shelter off Bear Creek Road. However, several of the most vocal transit supporters including Peter Gramlich and Linda Johnson will not be on the council come January and their successors have been less enthusiastic about the city's spending on the bus system. The BAT system has a roughly $3.5 million annual budget, about $1.5 million of which comes from the city's general fund - the same pot of money that also funds essential services like police, fire and road construction.
The forecasted cuts to the system come at a time when ridership on the BAT is at an all-time high. According to the city, rides jumped roughly 30 percent in September from a year ago.
Upfront hopes that the new city councilors take a hard look at the bus system, which includes taking some rides and talking to customers, before they drop the axe on BAT.
Upfront shook off the election hangover by spending "media day" at the new Orvis shop in Bend. Among fly fishing folk, Orvis represents a sort of gold standard and the company's arrival in Bend with a new retail store in the Old Mill and fishing guide service has been much anticipated by many local flycasters. While Orvis is a top notch outfit, fly fishing shops, even good ones are pretty much a dime a dozen in fly fishing crazy Central Oregon - you have to get out to Prineville to find an underserved market. What makes the Orvis shop unique is the addition of an 18 "hole" casting course that meanders through the Old Mill District. The course, which is played like a round of golf, is the first of its kind in the country, according to company officials who gave Upfront and some other fishing media nerds a tour last Friday. (After a few hours of actual fishing, of course)
The layout proved plenty challenging with lots of mulligans strewn about the course at the end of the day. To make things interesting, Orvis divided us media folks into three teams, assigning each a conservation non-profit. The winning team got $1,000 for its charity. Second place took home $500 and third place got $250.
When the scores were tallied at the end of the day, the Deschutes River Conservancy came home the big winner.
The Deschutes Basin Land Trust grabbed the $500 second prize. And the Nature Conservancy got the "also ran" $250.
It was a nice gesture from a new company in town and Upfront hopes to see them stay committed to helping some of our local conservation groups in the future.
In the meantime the course is open to the public with color scorecards and an instruction book available at the register inside Orvis, which will also loan a rod if you need one.
And thankfully for Upfront, there's a beginner level on each hole.